New York, NY — One often hears that human necessities include access to food, water and shelter. Although this is certainly true to an extent, it also fails to address the nuance that rests in those words. Humans need healthy and sustainable food, clean water and shelter. Along with that, we need adequate, sustainable energy for long-term positive growth. A lack of access to sustainable energy means one is in fuel poverty. This is an issue that plagues much of the world. In France, fuel poverty is heightened by the rising home energy costs.
What Is Fuel Poverty?
Fuel poverty officially refers to “the difficulty for households to afford adequate warmth in their home.” So, fuel poverty is a violation of the importance of access to secure and sustainable shelter. Additionally, “fuel poverty is a complex and multi-scale issue, relating to the household-level to the country-level and the demand-side to the supply-side.” Many factors shape fuel poverty, including social and economic conditions. Ultimately, fuel poverty represents an essential aspect regarding the lack of access to basic needs that people in poverty have worldwide.
Fuel Poverty In France
Fuel poverty in France is exceptionally high, as energy costs have risen steadily since 2004. Additionally, they show that 3.5 million households suffered from cold in their home in 2006. 3.8 million spent more than 10% of their income to pay their energy bill. Grenoble local Chris Dickson told The Borgen Project that “today, according to the ONPE (Office National de la Précarité énergétique) that figure can be more accurately estimated at 5 million”. This increase in citizens suffering from inadequate heat in their homes indicates a rise in fuel poverty in France.
The Capital of the Alps
Nicknamed France’s Capital of the Alps, Grenoble is a medium-sized city home to over 500,000 people. Climate issues rear their head in Grenoble primarily because of the high mountains, which traps pollution “emitted mainly by cars and wood-burning fireplaces all over the city.” Additionally, Grenoble is also more at risk because of the cold winter months. Grenoble can drop to lows of 30 to 35 degrees Fahrenheit. Grenoble is at high risk of fuel poverty due to its geographic location and current climate issues.
When asked about poverty in Grenoble, Dickson told The Borgen Project that “my husband worked for a charity organization for five years and saw the demand for assistance triple from 2015 to 2020. Les Restos du Coeur operates as a food bank, a soup kitchen, distributes clothing to the needy and provides other services. Today it is difficult to imagine the nefarious effects that the COVID pandemic has brought. However, we know they are unable to satisfy the demand. The beneficiaries of these charitable programs mainly include people who are no longer able to make ends meet.” The connection between the rise in poverty in Grenoble and the inability to afford heat energy in homes is significant.
Efforts Against Fuel Poverty
Some have tried to fight the rising rates of fuel poverty in Grenoble. In 2014, Eric Piolle became France’s first Green Party Mayor. Dickson told The Borgen Project how Piolle has helped. She said, “he has put into place a number of programs to address the problem of fuel poverty with a view to making the energy transition that will be necessary for the future. For example, Piolle has helped to create government offices such as the Office Nationale de la Précarité Énergétique to assist individuals faced with fuel poverty. OPAH Opération programmé pour l’amélioration de l’Habitat which subsidizes rehabilitation of housing in poor neighborhoods by renovating insulation and modernizing heating installations to ensure their efficiency.”
Future of Fuel Poverty
Additionally, individuals can contact the Centre Communal d’Action Sociale in Grenoble to seek help with a problem. A specialized counselor will help them to help find a solution. Moreover, these efforts have set an example for the rest of France. According to Dickson, “In 2014, Eric Piolle was the first Europe Ecologie Les Verts mayor to be elected to a city of over 100,000 in France. Today there are seven others.”
These efforts all represent real progress in the fight against fuel poverty at a governmental level. Piolle’s re-election in 2020 reveals the Grenoblois’ faith in his strategies. However, rising rates indicate significantly more work. The pandemic and the ongoing refugee crisis contribute to poverty and fuel poverty. Having access to a shelter that provides adequate heat is a human necessity.
– Sebastian Fell